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The Complete History of Grand Prix Motor Racing by Adriano Cimarosti
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F. Gordon Crosby - Nazzaro wins the French GP at 42

The Turbo Years
RS11The war between FISA and FOCA continued into 1981 causing the postponement of the Argentine Grand Prix. Bernie Ecclestone threatened to run its own World Professional Championship but luckily an agreement was struck at a summit meeting in Maranello which would come to be known as the Concorde agreement.

In 1966, when the formula was changed allowing for 3 liter engines a provision was made for 1.5 liter supercharged engines. With no takers amongst the current engine suppliers and the tremendous success of the Ford-Cosworth it was left to an outsider, yet one with a history that traced back to the first Grand Prix to show a third way. Renault had been trying to win Le Mans with a turbo-charged engine but was suffering from cracked pistons. Bernard Dudot was sent to Garrett AiResearch to study the fine art of turbo-charging. In 1979 the Renault turbocharged engine found its way into a Grand Prix car. They were soon joined by BMW and the turbo era was dawning. It was thought by some that turbocharged engines would allow large manufacturers to leapfrog the smaller British teams and their acknowledged leadership in chassis design.
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Keke RosbergBy 1981 Ferrari was now firmly in the turbo camp but even the talents of Gilles Villeneuve couldn't carry the ill-handling car to the championship. McLaren was now under the control of Ron Dennis and with John Watson driving a John Barnard designed McLaren MP4 it became the first carbon-fibre chassis car to win a championship race at the British Grand Prix. The title came down to the final race in Las Vegas and Piquet with a fifth place finish secured enough points to become World Champion. Turbo powered cars continued to make progress and when the year was over they had won seven of the 16 races on that years calendar. 

Rules changes for 1982 banning the use of movable skirts forced teams to reduce ground clearances to around 25mm in conjunction with an almost total lack of suspension movement. The drivers were now experiencing cornering forces up to 4gs at some circuits. Double World Champion Niki Lauda was lured from retirement by a barrel full of Marlboro cigarette money to join John Watson at McLaren. Alan Jones went the opposite direction and quit Formula 1 opening a seat at Williams for Finn Keke Rosberg. The third rival for the title of the previous year, Carlos Reutemann also retired, this time after the first two races.

The turbos of Ferrari, Renault and now Brabham dominated the opening race at Kyalami with Prost taking the flag. The British teams continued to fight what would become a losing battle against the turbos. Brabham, having access to both turbo and Cosworth engines tried to straddle the middle. Piquet in a Brabham took Brazil but only after temporarily reverting to a normally-aspirated engine. The turbo cars had a clear advantage on the faster circuits but their continued turbo lag proved a handicap on circuits with a lot of corners. Only after Spa was it dragged firmly into the turbo camp by its erstwhile engine supplier BMW.

Gilles VilleneuveIt was a the recently un-retired Niki Lauda's turn next at Long Beach before the battle between FOCA and FISA erupted again. Ferrari won the FOCA boycotted the San Marino Grand Prix but a feud between the Ferrari teammates Didier Pironi and Gilles Villeneuve would lead to tragedy at Zolder. Villeneuve desperate bid to out-qualify his bitter foe ended when he crashed into a slow moving Jochen Mass. Villeneuve never won a championship, victories at all costs were his goal not the marshalling of valuable points. The sport had lost a direct descendent of Bernd Rosemeyer and Tazio Nuvolari when the little Canadian driver died. The words used to describe the pre-war German ace; "... .. shot meteor-like across the motor racing firmament..." by Cyril Posthumas could well have applied this racer whose life was speed. As often happens it is only after something is gone do we begin to realize what it was that we had.

Almost as an afterthought the race was won by John Watson for McLaren. At Monaco it rained but Riccardo Patrese was able to stay on the track and score his first victory. Watson and Piquet took the next two races, Detroit and Canada, respectively. By the German Grand Prix the title race was between Pironi and Watson only to have the Ferrari driver suffer career ending injuries during practice. The Swiss Grand Prix which was held in Dijon, France was won by Rosberg who now found himself in the championship's lead. The season ended at the lamentable Las Vegas, US Grand Prix - West and though the race was won by Michele Alboreto in a Tyrrell the title went to Keke Rosberg. The battle between turbo-charged and normally aspirated cars were now dead even at 8 victories apiece.

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A turbo-charged car had yet to take its driver to the World Championship. That was to change in 1983. Two new manufacturers introduced turbo-charged engines - Honda and TAG-Porsche. 1983 also saw the effective banning of ground effects with the requirement for flat bottoms. The first half of the season saw Ford-powered victories at Long Beach, Monaco and Detroit before the turbos took over for good. The 1982 season had been a development season for Brabham and new engine supplier BMW, but when the car came right Nelson Piquet was the man to bring it home winning two of the last three races and claiming his second World Championship. The eighties now had their second double World Champion but there seemed to be something missing that year.

Alain Prost (standing) and 1984 World Champion Niki LaudaWith the death of Villeneuve, Formula One had lost the driver many considered one of its greatest even though while he raced the World Championship would go to others. Formula One was still looking for its next big star. Soon they would have two and the grid seemed hardly big enough to contain them. The old guard was still not quite through though 1984 might be looked upon as a transition year when the remarkable Niki Lauda, one year returned from retirement claimed his third and last title. The runner-up for the second year running, this time by a mere half point was his young teammate Alain Prost. Lauda using all of his race craft was able to counter the speed of his new rival but the writing was on the wall. A new force had come to the fore in Formula One. Called in later years the "Professor" he was the fastest man on the grid ... for all of one year. 
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